Aurora Citizen

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Archive for the ‘Staff Turnover’ Category

Dick’s Pick’s

Posted by auroracitizen on October 7, 2010

Christopher Watts has a brilliant post over on his site Temporary Sanity. The site is a must read for anyone interested in Aurora politics — or anyone with a quirky sense of humour.

The focus of the recent post was Dick Illingworth’s analysis of the outgoing Council before he passed away last year. For those who didn’t know Dick, he was a highly regarded and well-loved fixture in Aurora politics who alway spoke his mind and provided great insights on the goings on at Council.

Some may even recall that Phyllis Morris took a quote from one of Dick’s column many years ago and continuously used it in her election brochure because she acknowledged the impact his point of view had on readers.

It would be worth noting that Dick would probably not be happy to see his quote used this election.

Chris has taken the time to review all of Dick’s Brickbats & Bouquets and provided a neat summary for your review. It is worth the time to read.

Dick also wrote an opinion column (Poor Richard) in the May 2008 Auroran. Reprints were distributed at the Library Board all-candidates meeting on Sunday. You can see a copy <> of the reprint if you are interested.

In it he stated that in almost 50 years of observing council meetings; “I have never seen a more fractious council than the current Aurora Council. It’s an embarrassment and a disgrace!”

He went on to say, “If some of the senior members of staff start looking for positions elsewhere, council members will only have themselves to blame.” It is almost prophetic — 6 of 8 positions left this term — but Phyllis and crowd accept no responsibility.

Remember this column was written in May 2008.

Please take the time to visit Temporary Sanity and read the post. It will give you greater insight into what has been going on these last 4 years.

Then get out and vote!

Posted in Election 2010, Leadership, Staff Turnover | 43 Comments »

Facts About Senior Staff Exodus

Posted by auroracitizen on September 20, 2010

Guy Poppe, faithful supporter of the Morris regime, has repeatedly challenged readers of this blog for a list of senior staff who have left this term “because of the current Council”. His premise is based on the fact that unless the departing employee writes a letter to the editor stating this, the wholesale departures shouldn’t be linked to the current Council.

We say, real leaders accept responsibility for what happens on their watch. Well, this is Phyllis’s watch.

Mayor Morris has steadfastly refused to even answer the direct question of Richard Johnson, in spite of a Freedom of Information request specifically asking this very question. Wonder why? If there is a more obvious answer, why not illuminate the great unwashed.

Perhaps Mr Poppe would repeatedly ask her for this answer.

So to try to answer the question without the spin, we have simply pulled the list together as best we can based on public information. Please let us know if we have missed something.

Following is a list of senior staff positions that make up the Management Committee. These are the town staff that interact directly with Council and are responsible for all operations of the corporation.

By position we have listed the original employee at the start of this term — followed by any changes where applicable. We have left out employee names to respect their privacy.

Chief Administrative Officer
Original employee – Contract “Terminated”
Replacement in place

Original employee – departed
1st Replacement – departed
2nd Replacement in place

Original employee – departed
Replacement in place

Director, Public Works
Original employee – departed
1st Replacement (acting) – departed
2nd Replacement in place

Director, Planning
Original employee – departed
Replacement in place

Director, Building Administration
Original employee in place

Director, Finance
Original employee – departed
Replacement in place

Director, Parks & Recreation
Original employee in place

Bonus Question: Integrity Commissioner
D. Nitkin – Contract “Terminated”
D. Tsubouchi

By our count, the town has lost 8 people from 6 senior management positions; we now have new faces in 6 of 8 positions with only 2 of 8 original employees still in place.

Each of the original employees had years of experience at their role providing the town with their expertise. This expertise and corporate  memory have been lost.

Now of course Mr Poppe will again demand to know which ones left “because of the actions of the current Council“.

It’s a surprising question coming from someone who claims to be a lawyer. If so, he should know that when leaving a place of employment it is not advisable to make claims like “I left because of the boss”. It reflects poorly on your character when seeking future employment and opens the door to possible legal action, something this Council has a reputation for.

Plus, departing staff had too much class to make such statements — something the current members of Council could learn from.

We simply offer the facts and invite you to draw your own conclusion.

Posted in Election 2010, Freedom of Information, Leadership, Staff Turnover | 28 Comments »

Opinions, Allegations and Threats

Posted by auroracitizen on September 16, 2010

The Aurora Citizen is again the target of a letter from the Town solicitor demanding that comments be removed from this blog.

On Sept 14th, Mr Bill Hogg received a registered letter from Christopher C. Cooper, Director of Legal Services/Town Solicitor with the comment “While the Town does not seek to stifle fair and accurate comment, we hereby ask that you remove the posts from the Blog, which posts suggest  Mr Ballantyne is or has acted unethically and illegally in his role as the Town’s manager of Corporate Communications.”

Within the letter he also indicates the specific comments that are the subject of the letter.

So let’s be clear –in the quest for accuracy.

The comments identified by Mr Cooper are not posts written by someone associated with this blog — they were comments submitted by readers of this blog.

The first comment suggested that a Phyllis Morris quote included in a Banner article on her campaign for re-election was written by Mr Ballantyne.

The second comment indicated that they hoped that Mr Ballantyne was not responsible for updating comments on Wikipedia since they could be looked upon as electioneering edits.

Both comments expressed opinion. They were not asserted as statements of fact by the commentors.

The issue from the town perspective is that these comments implied that Mr Ballantyne was improperly using his office to help a candidate for re-election — which is inappropriate and a serious accusation under the Code of Conduct governing Town employees as well as the Municipal Elections Act, 1996.

Fair enough — we have removed the 2 comments at the request of the Town since it is the Town’s position that “the suggestions made in the posts were not true, have no basis in fact”. You can read the entire letter by clicking on the pictures above.

We also do not want any allegations published — either by contributors to this blog or the numerous readers who comment.

We believe the protection of staff from being embroiled in political debate is an important issue. Staff are expected to remain outside the political battles at all times. After all, this terms enemy, might be next terms boss.

We trust that Phyllis Morris and the remainder of Council share this view.

Posted in CAO, Election 2010, Integrity, Leadership, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 41 Comments »

See It For Yourself — Then Decide For Yourself

Posted by auroracitizen on July 24, 2010

Council Watch #12 – by Richard Johnson

Well council once again put on quite a show at the July 13th council meeting. There were so many issues of concern raised that one does not know where to start.

While I remain impressed with the quality of our town staff, I’m left with the feeling that we may want to change the town we are twinned with to Salem, Mass given the clear and apparent witch hunt that appears to be well underway under the leadership of our Mayor.

The meat of the accusations that have been re-issued under the code of conduct appear at 4:24:00 to 4:39:30 of the tape located at this link:

Rogers Cable LINK:

The Integrity Commissioner is paid a maximum of $5,000 per month to a maximum of $60,000 per year. He is also paid a minimum monthly retainer, even when complaints are held in abeyance from August 1 to Dec 1. He also answers questions and educates council where and when required. John Leach agreed to send me the report that was prepared by staff when the IC was hired in order that I might be able to figure out what the monthly retainer is.

The section between 3:32:00 to 3:57:00 of the above noted meeting tape deals with two issues: the cut-off date for filing complaints in around election time moratoriums as well as the fact that council seems to only be focusing on accusations raised by Clr MacEachern (which complaints are supported by Mayor Phyllis Morris, Clr Wendy Geartner & Clr Steve Granger). A complaint that was apparently filed against Clr Granger seems to have fallen off the radar for some reason and amazingly no complaint has ever been submitted against Clr MacEachern as far as I am aware, despite her less than civil e-mails to Clr Wilson and Clr Buck and her actions towards others at the council table from time to time.

At 3:48:50 Evelyn Buck speaks about the code of conduct. The IC’s contract is a twelve month contract that can be terminated with 30 days notice.

While the Integrity Commissioner may in fact be an “independent (arms length) third party” as noted by the Mayor, he can also apparently be fired if he does not rule to the Mayor’s favour, as Mr. Nitkin found out the hard way. The fate of the previous IC can’t escape the notice of the current IC who is currently responsible for inspiring the current council to new levels of integrity. The jury is out as to how successful the new IC has been and how much money is too much money when witnessing the games that we continue to see being played, which games do in fact appear to be highly politically motivated.

Clr Buck states that the previous council “extorted” money and her statement was like throwing bloody meat into a shark tank. Start the tape at  4:07:50 onwards… and onwards to 4:13:00. Buck marches out at 4:10:00

See definition of extortion:

Extortion:  “The term extortion is often used metaphorically to refer to usury or to price-gouging, though neither is legally considered extortion. It is also often used loosely to refer to everyday situations where one person feels indebted against their will, to another, in order to receive an essential service or avoid legal consequences. For example, certain lawsuits, fees for services such as banking, automobile insurance, gasoline prices, and even taxation, have all been labeled “legalized extortion” by people with various social or political beliefs. [citation needed]”

Even if I may disagree with Clr Buck on any number of issues and / or her choice of language, I still don’t think that the code of conduct and the $50,000 plus that has been spent to date in dealing with councillor Buck is money well spent when we given that not one thin dime to the food bank. This is a poisoned council and it very largely the Mayor’s doing as a result of her approach to public dialog and her clear and apparent manipulation of process.

Here is but one small example from the same meeting in question: The Mayor tried to paint a picture that only a small number of people do all the work, as per her attempt with Clr. MacEachern to get attendance records for in-camera CLOSED meetings made public (see 4:17:00 — 4:24:00) and despite the fact that the Mayor often ignores the input of at least three councillors constantly and she has thwarted their efforts to join committees and advisory groups.

I suspect that the reason that some councilors are less than fully utilised is because they have been ignored and mistreated. I trust that we don’t have to remind anyone that one Councilor (Grace Marsh) felt compelled to resign in frustration. Look at the town’s senior staff employment record for an inkling of how staff must feel under this business culture. This is a vindictive and manipulative council beyond all compare.

Apparently dealing with ethical issues with this group could well become a full-time job at our collective expense. Between the accolades that were showered on staff and committee members by the Mayor and the dealing of the above mentioned code of conduct issues, it is amazing that the above noted meeting was only four and a half hours long. If you feel that this post is far too long, I don’t blame you, but just try watching the entire council meeting.


Posted in Code of Ethics, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Election 2010, Leadership, Staff Turnover, Town Council | Leave a Comment »

Why Is Council Avoiding A Direct Question?

Posted by auroracitizen on July 24, 2010

Council Watch #11 – by Richard Johnson

Back in April I asked the town if the recent level of senior staff turn-over was typical of past councils or was it some kind of anomaly ?

I was then asked to file a freedom of information request, which I promptly obliged. I was reluctant to spend the total charge of $30 requested in order to get an answer to what I thought was a simple question that council itself should have been asking at no cost to me given that approximately twenty senior and mid level management staff have left the town in the past few years by choice, or otherwise.

When I opened up the town’s response (seconds after parting with my money) I realised that they had not actually answered my question.

Rather than get a specific answer with regards to senior and mid level management turn-over I received total employment numbers that suggest that staff turn-over on average appears to be in line with the previous two Council terms. At that point I decided that I could not afford to pay the money that would be expected to actually answer my question. I was prepared to cut my losses and move on to the next big municipal issue.

I have subsequently found out in a round about way that the Mayor informed a local reporter that all I had to do was ask her to answer the question and the answer would have been forthcoming at no cost to me. The Mayor’s comments also come as a surprise to me because I understand that at least two councillors have asked the same question of staff and have received no response.

At this point, through this OPEN QUESTION TO THE MAYOR, I would like to clarify if the senior and mid level staff turn over that we have witnessed during the current council term is typical of the pervious two councils or is it some kind of anomaly?

The town’s response to my FOI was also enlightening in that I found out that our town staff has grown by 20% since the last election, to a of total 192 people.

This too was typical of previous staff growth, however as a side note I had to ask myself if such an increase was in line with our town’s growth over the same period and was this staffing increase justifiable given the current economic downturn and the town’s apparent efforts to limit our tax increases ?

Some may argue that the town’s approach may be a Keynesian approach to stimulus spending, but I’m not so sure that increasing taxes year in and year out is in our collective best interest over the long term. If the Mayor wants to tackle that question as well, it would be much appreciated given that October 25th is fast approaching.

I look forward to receiving some kind of more detailed response that will hopefully come before October 25th at no further expense to me.


Posted in Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Election 2010, Freedom of Information, Leadership, Staff Turnover | 5 Comments »

Why Must We Pay For FOI’s From Government That Claims to be Open & Transparent

Posted by auroracitizen on June 3, 2010

Council Watch #10 – by Richard Johnson

I have a question that I would like to pose to the participants of Aurora Citizen and maybe Councillor Buck could assist me here, given that she is the only named Councillor that participates openly in our discussions.

Regular readers of this Blog will recall the following two postings:

Town Solicitor Demands Removal of Blog Comments, Posted by auroracitizen on April 25, 2010

A Monument to the Leadership of Mayor Phyllis Morris, Posted by auroracitizen on April 18, 2010

In an effort to follow-up on the underlying question raised in these postings, I asked the Town Clerk if the staff turnover we have witnessed recently is typical of past councils and after multiple e-mail attempts to get a response I was asked to pay $5 and file a Freedom Of Information request, which I promptly did. Putting aside that this is supposed to be a more open, responsive and transparent government, I am happy to receive a response near the end of the legal time limit permitted of thirty days, however I am now not sure how I should respond to the latest development.

Earlier this week I received a phone message stating that there I could pick up a response to my FOI at the Town Hall. Again, I set aside the suggestion that the cost of a postage stamp might be more than the town wants to pay in order to respond to me, so I phoned the town and ended up speaking with a very nice receptionist on the main switchboard (at this point I honestly think she should run for council, but I digress).

I am now faced with the question as to if I should pay the requested $25 in order to get an answer to my simple question. While I am thankful that this is hundreds of dollars lower than what I thought they would ask for given that the town is racking up legal charges and other costs these days, and it is thousands of dollars less than another FOI request that I once filed (and never got an answer to), at the same time I am wondering why I should be paying to receive an answer to a question that the Council itself should be asking ? Am I alone in asking myself this question ?

It occurred to me that an alternative option would be for a Councillor to ask Council to waive the charge given the importance of the question being asked and especially given that it is an election year and it is not just me that is asking if the natives are in fact wrestles. Maybe even the local media could pay the freight.

Your thoughts ?

Richard Johnson

Posted in Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Freedom of Information, Staff Turnover | 23 Comments »

Town Solicitor Demands Removal of Blog Comments

Posted by auroracitizen on April 25, 2010

Under the post A Monument to the Leadership of Mayor Phyllis Morris, we posted that one of the positions that had departed was the Communications Officer — based on a comment by Richard Johnston.

Subsequently we received notice of a Private and Confidential Registered letter (via Bill Hogg, who kindly shared this with the Aurora Citizen team) from Christopher Cooper, Director of Legal Services/Town Solicitor.

In that letter Mr Cooper states;

“Pleased be advised that the Town considers the comments in respect of the Town’s “Communications Officer” in the aforementioned postings to be false, misleading, unsubstantiated, without any factual foundation whatsoever, potentially defamatory and potentially damaging to the personal and professional reputation of the individual, currently in the Town’s employ, about whom the comments are made, despite the fact that the individual is not referred by name.”

This was followed by the demand to remove all comments from the blog  because they are potentially libellous and damaging — with the instruction to “govern yourself accordingly”.

So here are the facts we have uncovered.

  • The Communications Officer has not left. In fact there never was a Communications Officer at the town. This was an erro on our part.
  • There was a “Communications and Marketing Manager” who has the primary media contact for all town media for the past 8 years — as noted on any Press Release available on the Town website until March 2010
  • The town has created a new position — Manager of Communications — based on a newly created job description that includes requirements that the long serving employee did not have. We are unable to confirm which of those requirements that the new employee has.
  • Both the old and new positions are Managers.
  • The long serving “Communications and Marketing Manager” was required to apply for the opportunity to continue to do the job they had been doing — successfully it would appear — for 8 years. Not surprising, they did not receive a job offer.
  • Significant responsibilities of the “Communications and Marketing Manager” were transferred  to the new position.
  • Since the media release of March 8, 2010, the old position is no longer is listed as the media contact for Aurora — that is now the new Manager of Communications.
  • We undersatnd that the 2 people who reported to the Communications and Marketing Manager are now reporting to the new Manager of Communications. The old position no longer reports directly to the CAO.
  • The Communications and Marketing Manager returned from a vacation to find their belongs and office materials dumped into the renovated councillors office space – their old office now occupied by the new “Manager of Communications”

So Mr Cooper, knowing that you are a reader, in response to your demand that we “respond in writing to the undersigned by no later than 5:00 pm on Monday April 26th, 2010′, please be assured that we have removed the offending reference.

And knowing that people at the town offices  do read the blog — at least Mr Cooper does (although we know that Mayor Morris claims not to read it personally :)) — we invite you to provide any additional facts to provide balance as Councillor MacEachern has asked for.

Per your request, we have governed ourselves accordingly and provided the full range of facts as they are known.

We apologize to our readers for the mis-information. Because we provided this mis-information, we have done some additional research and have provided the facts as we have read them in the public domain.

We will leave it to the citizens of Aurora to draw their own conclusions about the manner in which this staff member of the Town has been treated.

In summary, the Communications and Marketing Manager did not leave — but possibly the conduct and treatment by the town sheds some light on why so many have.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Staff Turnover | 51 Comments »

A Monument to the Leadership of Mayor Phyllis Morris

Posted by auroracitizen on April 18, 2010

After reading of the latest departure of Peter Horvath after 19 years as the Municipal Manager of Operations, we thought we have a look at the legacy that is Phyllis Morris.

There has been debate about who and when to name streets in Aurora after. So here’s a thought. How about naming streets after town staff who have been fallen by the Phyllis Morris dictatorship. (Note tongue placed firmly in cheek with no disrespect to those who served in the armed forces). We could build an entire subdivision and not run out of names.

Possibly we should erect a monument with Mayor Morris perched triumphantly on top, with the ever-expanding list of the departed chiselled below, so we could remember her legacy long after she is gone. She is determined to be remembered– possibly this is her legacy.

Councillor Buck began a list. We thought we would update it as it continues to grow. If we have missed anyone, please send a note and we will update. 

  1. Councillor
  2. Chief Administrative Officer (fired)
  3. Director of Planning (early retirement)
  4. Integrity Commissioner (fired after delivering his first report)
  5. Treasurer (resigned day new Chief Administrative Officer commenced employment & replaced by appointment by new CAO without a formal recruitment process)
  6. Public Works Director
  7. Acting Public Works Director
  8. Manager of Works Operations
  9. Solicitor
  10. Assistant Solicitor
  11. Clerk/Director of Corporate Services (took early retirement)
  12. Clerk/Director of Corporate Services (left after only 8 months into 5 year contract)
  13. Administrative Assistant Director of Corporate Services
  14. Deputy Clerk
  15. Human Resources Officer
  16. Manager of Bylaw Services
  17. Council Secretary
  18. Administrative Assistant to the Mayor and Council
  19. Economic Development Officer (chose not to renew contract)
  20. Museum Curator (replaced as a paid position by Mayor’s friend and campaign organiser Ken Whitehurst)
  21. Heritage Planner

These are all significant positions that represent a considerable corporate memory — there are probably more that didn’t make the papers. So aside from the impact on employee morale, the historical memory that has been lost is significant. Plus the loss of productivity as new staff begin to understand their role and issues that are within their new job.

The financial loss is incalculable — but significant.

That’s it for now, so please send in any others who have departed this term so we have a complete record — just in case Phyllis needs the list for her monument.

Posted in Leadership, Staff Turnover | 14 Comments »

Is Mayor Phyllis Morris Preparing For Next Election?

Posted by auroracitizen on March 28, 2010

Council Watch #8 – by Richard Johnson

It looks like a past reporter for Metroland Press’ Alliston Herald  has been hired as Aurora’s new communications contact. Apparently a press release has been issued by the town announcing that Jason Ballantyne has replaced the lady that appears to have been effectively squeezed out of her job despite getting glowing job reviews (when they did them) over the past eight years. As a point of note, job reviews could not be done for those years when so many senior staff had been fired or left the town in such a short period of time.

The current communications officer being cast aside to play a new role at the town as a result of the job requirements being changed from under her, is the same lady who came back from holidays to find her office belongings moved to one of the councillors work stations (which was incidently renovated a few years ago and has rarely ever been used). One could argue that this could potentially be an effective dismissal case here.

The Mayor now has strengthened her ties to Metroland Press (the publisher of The Banner) thorough the hiring of her new speech writer, not to mention her potential strengthening of her relationship with the Conservatives thorough the hiring of our new Integrity Commissioner. The mayor also apparently has the benefit of two executive assistants when there was once one, so it now looks like all her ducks are in a row just before the next election.


Posted in Community Input, Council Watch-Richard Johnson, Integrity, Leadership, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 45 Comments »

Phyllis Morris Shows Off Her HR Skills — Again!

Posted by auroracitizen on March 21, 2010

It appears that a certain employee came back from vacation to find their office contents in a box, moved to a cubicle, which happens to be located in the Councilors’ office.

This from a Town that trumpets itself as a Character Community, and is reigned over by Phyllis Morris, who loves to tell all about her expertise in HR.

This is despicable and cowardly management (with apologies to real managers), and, would be grounds for dismissal or at least a serious reprimand at any organization with a reputable management. A first year HR student knows that this is totally unprofessional and would cause a ripple of dis-engagement throughout the organizational that would take years to undo.

However, this is just another day in Aurora. And another example of why staff turnover this term is so high.

But wait, this is not the end of the story.

This person was relocated to the Councilors’ offices. The offices that were renovated to the tune of upwards of $60,000 at the start of this term; a project so important that Councilor Al (tax fighter) Wilson allegedly stated was his first priority!

The contradictions are astounding: we have a tax–fighting Councilor, whose initial priority is to renovate what turns out to be a non-essential room, which is now being used as office space for displaced employees who have been treated shabbily by a Character Community employer that is led by a self-proclaimed HR expert.  And, the afore-mentioned Councilor, who at Council meetings has publicly professed his respect for and support of Town employees, says nothing.

Oh, and here’s a thought — WERE councilors consulted in this reallocation of their space? Just curious

Posted in Election 2010, Leadership, Staff Turnover, Town Council | 19 Comments »